Roads and Maritime Services, or RMS (the former RTA), is planning to upgrade the Pacific Highway between Woolgoolga and Ballina on the NSW North Coast. Some sections of the proposal will have very severe impacts on biodiversity as they pass through areas of native vegetation which are home to a range of native species, some of which are threatened.
One such section is Section 10 from the Richmond River to Coolgardie Road, Wardell. This section cuts through the Blackwall Range wildlife corridor, including the regionally and nationally significant Lower Richmond Koala population.
Friends of the Koala, Ballina Environment Society and Ballina Councillor Jeff Johnson are running a campaign to have the route on this part of the new highway changed because of the impact it will have on the local koala population. Koalas in NSW, along with those in the Australian Capital Territory and South-east Queensland, were listed in 2013 as vulnerable under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
For the RMS to be planning to put a major highway through prime koala habitat is inexcusable. There are other route options that do not impact on this important biodiversity hotspot, including widening the existing route.
The entire upgrade has been declared a controlled action under the EPBC Act. So the proponents require approval from the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, as well as from the NSW Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard. Whether these politicians will protect the koalas in this area by forcing RMS to change its plans is debatable. What may force them to do so is the pressure of public opinion. So letters or emails to these politicians may help - as may signing the on-line petition - Save Ballina Koalas